The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is back in person at the Civic Auditorium for the first time since 2019.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Wallace Baine

Weekender: Cabrillo Fest hits the high notes, Trivia Night recap and a tune worth hearing

Be the first to know about the latest in entertainment, arts and culture news. Sign up to get story alerts from Wallace delivered straight to your phone. And check out previous Weekenders here.

Weekender with Wallace Baine

Hi friends,

August in Santa Cruz traditionally means the time to punch your tickets to experience the big summer events of the year — Santa Cruz Shakespeare, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and Cabrillo Stage. These great organizations are all still getting their post-shutdown footing. And though they’ve all been around for years — Cabrillo Fest turns 60 this summer — now’s not the time to take them for granted. You know what to do.

Now, on with the show:

This Just In!

One of the greatest musical exports from Texas is veteran singer-songwriter James McMurtry, whose bone-dry, hard-bitten country-rock vibe is perfectly in keeping with these times. McMurtry will play live at the Rio Theatre on Oct. 14. Other new bookings this week include a rescheduling of the canceled Jesse Colin Young show for Oct. 1 at the Rio, the “Golden Voice of Africa,” Salif Keita, at the Rio on Sept. 10, singer-songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips at Moe’s Alley on Sept. 18, and the otherworldly Desert Dwellers leading a Triloka lineup at Moe’s on Oct. 1.

Check out my carefully curated and constantly updated planning guide, Down the Line, for the staggering riches and amazing choices awaiting Santa Cruz audiences. It’s our look ahead at the best shows, concerts and events through the rest of the year at clubs, stages and venues all over the county.

The logo for Baine's Nine


Here they are, nine necessary know-abouts for the week ahead. Welcome to the B9:

  1. The Cabrillo Festival is 60! And to kick off its 60th anniversary season, it invites a Santa Cruz-born composer to contemplate “The End of Rain.”
  2. Sometimes a band is just too smart and eclectic for this tawdry world. How else to explain why NRBQ has been overlooked for more than 50 years?
  3. Jazzy, soulful, bluesy, unafraid, nakedly human — you just run out of adjectives when describing the singing voice of Austin’s magnificent Ruthie Foster.
  4. Good news for fans of Santa Cruz mystery writer Leslie Karst: Her sleuthing heroine Sally Solari is back in a new adventure.
  5. Santa Cruz Shakespeare is just hitting its stride, with all three productions going strong. Don’t let the summer slip away without visiting The Grove.
  6. The vocal group Roomful of Teeth electrified the Cabrillo Festival back in 2019. Guess who’s back in town.
  7. Nellie McKay is one of the jazz world’s great creative weirdos, and we mean that in the best possible way.
  8. Texas has given the world a battalion of unforgettable musicians, but no story of Texas music is complete without Austin’s great blues pianist Marcia Ball.
  9. Come up with any category you like, but celebrated bass player and brilliantly inventive stylist Les Claypool is just not going to conform to any of them.

WANT MORE B9 PICKS? Find recommendations from Team BOLO — Wallace, Max Chun and Will McCahill — here

Trivia Night wrap

On Tuesday, a new thing was born. Lookout’s own Trivia Night event, hosted by me and my buddy comedian Richard Stockton, was a success. And we’ll do it again as a free monthly event, on Aug. 30 and Sept. 27 in the super-cool environment of Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz.

It was my first time planning something like this and I had a lot of fun conceiving of tricky trivia questions. The goal: having our audience walk away having learned a little something about the world.

Wallace Baine and comedian Richard Stockton emceeing the inaugural Lookout Trivia Night at Abbott Square.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

One of the questions in our “Final Jeopardy” round, which gave locals Clark Brigham and Mary Maloney the grand prize of the night, was this one:

In the 1987 classic movie “The Lost Boys,” what song played during the opening sequence designed to capture the vibe of Santa Cruz and that featured many of the film’s local extras?

They won the pot by identifying the roles in movies and TV by Santa Cruz-born actor Adam Scott.

I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m eager to hear from you on your feedback on the event. Next time, we’ll take what we learned to make the event even better.

Oh, yes, the answer to the “Lost Boys” question:

“People Are Strange” by the Doors. (Should Santa Cruzans take that personally?)

Staged-reading Season

If you’ve seen Kathryn Chetkovich’s seductive and brightly funny play “The Formula” at this summer’s Santa Cruz Shakespeare season, you may or may not know that it originally was presented back in 2019 as a midweek staged reading. This year, SCS returns to staged readings — that is, plays that are performed by actors not in costume and reading from scripts. These kinds of performances give playwrights and directors valuable ideas and insights about a play’s viability, and they are a kick for audiences, too. The 2019 staged reading of “The Formula” has become part of SCS folklore for its positive audience reaction.

This year, Santa Cruz Shakespeare is presenting the work of two Santa Cruz playwrights on back-to-back Tuesdays, Aug. 2 and 9 — respectively, Ian McRae’s “Nasty, Brutish, and Short” and Kate Hawley’s “Simply The Thing She Is.”

You might recognize McRae as the guy who runs Hula’s Island Grill in downtown Santa Cruz. Aside from his restaurateur’s career, McRae is a highly trained actor and director who’s had his feet planted in the local theater scene for many years. He calls “Nasty, Brutish, and Short” a “two-hander,” that is, a play for two actors. He doesn’t want to go too much into detail about the play’s plot. We’ll say only it’s about a very contemporary dilemma featuring two writers — one Black and one white — confronting the thorny question: Where do empathy and creativity end and cultural appropriation begin?

Sure, the staged readings are not the kind of full-on spectacle you expect from Santa Cruz Shakespeare, but they’re a great way to discover new material and to witness how theater develops new work. Tickets are on a pay-what-you-want scale from $5 to $25.

The very next day, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, McRae is involved in theater of another kind, unrelated to SCS and the staged reading of his new play. He and his wife, Leslie, will host a production in their Westside backyard of a play called “Speed Bump,” about two longtime friends who find themselves on the opposite side of a battle involving a speed bump installed on their street. RSVP here for a chance to see the play.

Cristian Măcelaru, music director and conductor for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Meet Cristi

I am honored to be able to chat live and in person with the Cabrillo Festival’s music director and conductor, Mr. Cristi Măcelaru. He and I will talk about the new season and the long wait between seasons — it’s been three years since the festival had in-person programming. The chat is part of the pre-show festivities on Friday at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. We’ll be chatting around 7 p.m. at the outdoor stage before moving indoors for the concert. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available. Enjoy the summer, and enjoy Cabrillo Festival’s return to live performance.

Earworm of the Week

Forget COVID for a minute. At least in the mental-health realm, clinical depression is the illness of our age. Though sadness and melancholy have been a theme of popular music at least since Hank Williams, music has had a more slippery relationship with depression, as distinct from just “being blue.” The young British-born singer-songwriter Arlo Parks knows how to be an ally to someone wrestling with depression; at least that’s the evidence we gather from her beautiful and deeply compassionate song “Black Dog.” The song’s title is as apt a metaphor for depression as any, and its narrator entirely stays away from the “just put on a happy face” line of advice that is unhelpful and tone-deaf to anyone trapped in the jaws of depression, and instead opts for straight-ahead compassion (“Sometimes it feels like you won’t survive this”). Its chorus rings with simple, direct, loving empathy: “It’s so cruel / What your mind can do for no reason.”


Where in Santa Cruz County Am I?

So how well do you notice the little things when you’re out and about across Santa Cruz County? We’ll post images from places that are accessible to the public somewhere in Santa Cruz County. You tell us where it is, as specifically as you can … or, better yet, send us your own photo of the same thing.

A statue

Recognize the imposing looking fellow above? You should — you’re probably carrying a picture of him (or several). Where is he?

A bobblehead of Anna Nicole Smith

Last week’s answer: The bobblehead of 1990s-era starlet Anna Nicole Smith (above) is one of dozens of bobbleheads in the window at That’s Kool, a small storefront retail sports shop in Soquel Village.

That's Kool in Soquel Village

That’s Kool has tons of vintage sports memorabilia and the bobblehead display in the front windows, naturally, leans very heavy toward Giants/Warriors/Sharks, but just in case you’re interested in Three Stooges bobbleheads, this place has got those, too.

That’s all I got, friends. Come at me with comments, ideas, complaints, or thundering insights. Thanks to all Lookout members for your faith and support, and please, spread the word on what we’re doing.